In 2015, we implemented our 10-year strategic plan to be Top of Mind Market Brand Dominant in the state of Michigan. Each year we assess our progress and initiate tactics to take one step closer to our goal in 2025. This year, as part of our marketing plan, we partnered with public relations firm Lambert to see just how far we have come. Their first job was to conduct a survey of Michigan residents to better understand what they look for in a wealth management firm. We also wanted to know if they have ever heard of Greenleaf Trust.

First, what does it mean to be Top of Mind Market Brand Dominant? To us it means when families, foundations, endowments, and companies have comprehensive wealth management, fiduciary, retirement plan, or family office needs they think of Greenleaf Trust.

What were a few of our learning outcomes from the survey? In general, our survey confirmed to us that people like to work with people they know and trust. As a result, they like to work with advisors who already work for and are recommended by their friends, family members, or peers. They also like to work with advisors who already have relationships with their other advisors such as their tax planner or attorney. This makes sense. When you need work done to your home, how do you usually start looking for the “best” contractor?

That said, they tend to feel their specific situations are unique. They want to work with an advisor who can understand their specific needs and create customized solutions for them. Experience here is also important, because although they feel their specific situations are unique they are also comforted to know that an advisor has successfully found solutions for other clients with similar needs. There is a difference between unique and unusual. We believe that each client is unique, not unusual. The solutions to their unique needs should not feel unusual to their advisor. One of Farmers Insurance’s television advertising slogans is “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.” I like this, because it lets potential customers know they have helped solve many unique client needs with solutions that are not unusual to Farmers.

There were also more than a few in the survey who feel that wealth management firms are all the same, perhaps because their primary focus was portfolio management. Portfolio management is only a small component of true comprehensive wealth management. We believe wealth management plans are important. Would you build a house before approving the blueprint? Before clients hire us or pay us any fees, we construct customized wealth management plans for them with solutions to their unique needs. Those solutions go well beyond portfolio management to include planning in other areas such as cash flow needs, insurance, education, estate, income tax, philanthropy, family dynamics, etc.

So, how many in the survey have heard of Greenleaf Trust? Opportunistically, not enough. And that is OK. We have more work to do on our brand awareness. The results of the survey confirmed many of our thoughts and opened our eyes to new ones. Our marketing plan moving forward with this information will be purposeful and respectful of the brand we have built with our reputation. For those families, foundations, endowments, and companies with comprehensive wealth management, fiduciary, retirement plan, or family office needs we believe we have solutions specifically for them. We just need to meet them.